Hornish Jr. to run half a dozen Chase races for Penske

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. plans to run five to six of the final 10 races in the Nextel Cup season for Penske Racing, team owner Roger Penske said on Saturday.

Penske said the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion, who is considering a full-time ride in Cup next season, will turn his focus to stock cars as soon as the Indy season ends on Sept. 9.

Hornish's first Cup race could come in the championship Chase opener at New Hampshire International Speedway.

"That's the game plan right now," Penske said before the start of the Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. "Obviously, he's got to qualify. But he did a good job at Michigan and if there is a chance to run cars every week, we'll see."

Hornish finished second in an ARCA race at Michigan International
Speedway in June and was 25th last weekend in the Busch Series event at the 2-mile track.

Penske would like to keep Hornish's focus on Car of Tomorrow races -- New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega, Martinsville and Phoenix -- because that is the car NASCAR will use full time in 2008.

"I told him the more experience you get the better you're going to be," Penske said. "We'll see."


NASCAR's scoring mistake on Kyle Busch in Friday night's Busch Series event didn't go unnoticed by Cup drivers.

Jeff Gordon, Busch's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, asked during the driver's meeting what could be done if a team disagrees with a call.

Race director David Hoots admitted NASCAR made a mistake when it dropped Busch from second to 28th for a commitment-line violation that they later determined never happened.

Hoots said an additional inspector would be sent to the pit area if there is a disputed call.

"We made a mistake," Hoots said. "Some of our checks and balances failed."

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Back at the track

Dodge Motorsports PR representative Ray Cooper, who has been away from the track for more than a month battling cancer, made a surprise appearance at the Bristol media center on Saturday.

Jeff Gordon then made a surprise visit to Cooper before driver introductions.

Cooper didn't pull any punches with the Chevrolet driver he got to know during his days with his now rival manufacturer.

"I wanted to see Dodge kick ass," he explained to Gordon when asked what brought him to Bristol.

Cooper then asked Gordon to let "my boy" Kurt Busch win.

Replied Gordon, "I need 10 bonus points."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.